**Disclaimer: Let me preface this post by saying I do not believe there is a direct correlation between giving a presentation and getting a job in IT. In other words, not being able to give a presentation does not mean a person won’t gain entry into the field. That being said, many entry level positions in IT now have a requirement making it mandatory to do end user training. It is from that standpoint I list 7 Ways To Improve Your Presentation Skills. All seven of these are tips I have utilized for public speaking and have aided me in job interviewing because the difference between an audience of 1-3 in an interview room vs 100+ for an event… is the size. The principles remain the same.
List to improve oneself:
- Rehearse– Before I give a speech, regardless of the audience size, I can easily rehearse it 9 times. My goal is to feel comfortable enough with the material to know it backwards and forwards. Doing this has helped me eliminate a lot of pauses, the “uh’s” and “um’s” that project nervousness and insecurity. Knowing the material thoroughly allows me to do what I intend to do and that is focus on the audience. If I am in any way unsure about what I am presenting, how I can I expect them to get anything out of deal?
- Tell a story– Telling a story is a great way to engage the audience as long as it’s relatable to the overall subject content. In my non-verbal communication class in college our assignment was to list some unique non-verbal cues we have experienced in our lives. All of the classmates had great examples. When it was my turn, I explained that I grew up playing that drums in a church. Our organist, Carl, was in charge and everybody listened to him. Carl absolutely hated when the drummers would start trying to get fancy and showoff. That is called “getting out of pocket”. During service Carl would “quietly yell” or more so mouth it to you slowly, “stay in the pocket”. One day, he stopped saying it and would just point to his handkerchief….that was staying in his pocket! That story got me an A+ on my assignment. Always find a story that is unique to you and relevant to the subject matter to help get the audience connected.
- Be comfortable (Be Yourself)- It has taken me many years to get comfortable on stage but what got me there is just being myself. I have had to speak in public for multiple reasons and what I realized is that it is ok to let me natural personality drive the presentation. In other words, it is disingenuous to try and be somebody I am not. I have a sense of humor and that is to my advantage as long as the humor is not taking away from the moment. As a matter of fact, in many cases if the examples are funny it is memorable for the audience.
- Focus on the Audience– What do you want them to think, feel and do? It is not hard to lose track of the reason why the presentation is happening in the first place. One of the problems with public speaking is that it is very easy to go on tangents. Staying focused on what the end result is helps eliminate excess talking and can also help with number 5.
- Keep it simple: Less is more and use simple language. Typically, if I am using a PowerPoint presentation when I start editing, I am looking to create more “white space” in the slide. That forces me to narrow down my sentences and create lists. The more cluttered a slide is with words, the easier it is for the audience to get mentally lost and disconnect from the presentation.
- Use images and pictures– One of the most powerful ways to punch up a presentation is using images. It should not hard to find pictures to use to add that unique element to the mix. Keep in mind here the goal is not to distract from the presentation with too many pictures but emphasizing main points with them is a helpful idea.
- Stand still but Be enthusiastic- In my opinion this suggestion is half true because it is situation specific. I joined a public speaking organization some years ago and part of showing enthusiasm is not being stoic and stiff. In some cases, it’s easier to connect with an audience by walking the length of the stage. The key to making that work, however, is not pacing rapidly back and forth but also not walking so slow that it defeats the point. It’s a lot easier to point to someone while making a point when you are on that side of the stage and that is part of making eye contact and engaging the audience as well.